HEY! WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?
Do you have one?
No, we're not talking about some Big Idea that's going to make you a million bucks overnight.
Like a Flowbee or a Ginsu Knife.
What's the Big Idea in your marketing?
This question is stirring in my gray matter this morning because of a tweet by Ogilvy & Mather.
Last week, they tweeted a graphic excerpted from Ogilvy On Advertising.
Yes, "That old chestnut." If you're one of those people who laughs off that book, you a) haven't read it or b) don't understand it, and c) you probably wouldn't be here if you're one of the laugher-offers anyway.
Following is the quotable Ogilvy liberated from that graphic...
WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?
You can do homework from now until doomsday, but you will never win fame and fortune unless you also invent big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.
Big ideas come from the unconscious. But your unconscious has to be well informed or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process.
It will help you recognize a big idea if you ask yourself five questions:
1. Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
2. Do I wish I had thought of it myself?
3. Is it unique?
4. Does it fit the strategy to perfection?
5. Could it be used for 30 years?
"HEY, BIG IDEAS! LIKE A GUY KITEBOARDING IN A HUGO BOSS SUIT!"
If you follow your relentless scribe in Facebook, you may have seen a share of a blog post from a relentless marketer, Great Circle Sails of Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Great Circle is very good at sharing all kinds of sailing information that would be of interest to its core customer.
In this case, we're talking about a video from Alex Thomson Racing, a professional offshore sailing team sponsored for many years by Hugo Boss.
As team and sponsor, Hugo Boss and Alex Thomson have enjoyed a very tight relationship.
Among their marketing tactics are videos of skipper Alex Thomson doing extraordinary things aboard a big, dangerous, Hugo-Boss emblazoned racing yacht.
Naturally, he does them all while wearing a Hugo Boss suit.
Like walking along the keel of the boat as the boat sails.
Or walking up the mast.
Or, most recently, in what has to be the most over-the-top example of waterborne insanity, sailing alongside the speeding Hugo Boss yacht on a Hugo Boss kiteboard, hooking into a line attached to the top of the boat's mast, and flying that kiteboard to 200 feet in the air.
All while wearing a Hugo Boss suit.
IT'S ALL VERY JAMES BOND
Fast action. Designer suits. Consummate cool. And while it gets Hugo Boss and Alex Thomson racing a lot of attention, no--this is not a Big Idea.
It's a big stunt.
Yes, by the Ogilvy criteria, it makes you gasp when you first see it.
You might wish you had thought of it yourself.
It is unique.
It might even fit the Hugo Boss strategy to perfection when contrasted with their "Mystery Man" branding for menswear, epitomizing style, a relaxed attitude, nothing to prove, purpose, strength and cool.
But could it be used for 30 years?
It really can't be maintained over the long haul.
And therein lies the challenge with finding the Big Idea.
THE BIG IDEA IS OFTEN A SMALL GEM
The Big Idea doesn't need to be shot out of a cannon every day for 30 years.
The Big Idea is as Leonardo da Vinci said of the cat: the Big Idea might be small, but it is a masterpiece.
Don't believe it?
"We'll leave the light on for you."
2016 marks 30 years of Motel 6 using that pearl of an idea as a way to convey the modest genius of Motel 6 to its budget-minded core customer.
Capt. Alex Thomson sailing 200 feet over the water at a high rate of speed and potentially to his death is a circus stunt.
Eventually, it's going to lose its charm.
Tom Bodett leaving the light on for you is a modestly-couched Big Idea that can live on through decades--and has.
DON'T DISMISS A BIG IDEA JUST BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE A HOUSECAT INSTEAD OF A LION
There are plenty of remarkable housecats.
Recently, The Fabulous Honey Parker and I were on the phone with one of Slow Burn Marketing's first clients, Dr. Sam's Eye Care.
Dr. Sam himself echoed the power of the tiny gem as Big Idea.
In a nutshell, Dr. Sam's Eye Care came to us as United Eyecare Specialists.
Business had been flat for years, and they knew a change was necessary.
They needed a Big Idea.
Re-branded as Dr. Sam's Eye Care, offering commonsense, straightforward and affordable eye care, we helped them harness the folksy and approachable Dr. Sam persona in an ongoing campaign underpinned by the tagline, "Straight talk. Better vision."
Business exploded. Dr. Sam became a local celebrity virtually overnight.
Seven years after it was launched, patients still come into Dr. Sam's Eyecare, repeating the tagline back to him: "Straight talk. Better vision."
In the conversation, Dr. Sam said...
"WE WOULD NOT BE WHERE WE ARE TODAY WITHOUT YOU"
And while it's a generous sentiment for which we humbly thank him, he means more than he's saying.
He means that, without his brand and a subsequent "Straight talk" campaign, he would not have experienced such growth.
And the business' growth is less a testimony to Slow Burn's work than it is to Dr. Sam's insight and commitment.
He quickly recognized the power of his Big Idea, and has no problem using it for 23 years.
He'll continue riding that pony into the sunset.
He understands its value as a Big Idea and puts it out into the ether at every opportunity.
But in Ogilvy's advice, there is a key directive that many folks will gloss over.
"STUFF YOUR CONSCIOUS MIND WITH INFORMATION...
"...then unhook your rational thought process."
This is where the genius comes from.
When working with a new client, we always tell them that they can't possibly give us too much information.
For example, we've recently finished a project with a major national bank.
Slow Burn was hired on the down low by someone in a kind of fintech skunkworks division to brand a tech product they're rolling out this year.
For weeks, we'd been speaking to the people involved with this product.
We researched fintech until it was dizzying.
We dug deep into the bank's heritage, which dates to the 1800s.
And just when we thought we'd hit on three Big Ideas...
After extended due diligence, all our work imploded.
That's because there is almost nothing as difficult as branding a financial product or service--except for branding a tech product or service.
Everything you come up with has already been used.
When working on such creative, there is a predictable pattern.
At some point, there's a lot of running in circles and patting one's hair as if it were aflame, crying "What do we do?! What do we do?!"
Then, after weeks of simmering away in the unconscious, which has been packed with information, bubbling up from the muck and mire come little gems.
You find them to be gasp-worthy. Something the Fabulous Honey Parker thought of I find I wish I'd thought of myself. They are unique. They fit the strategy to perfection. They could it be used for 30 years.
THESE LITTLE GEMS ARE THE BIG IDEAS THAT WERE SO ELUSIVE
Frequently, creative people fear the Big Idea will never come.
But it will.
The Big Idea happens.
Unfortunately, in our instant-gratification, digitally-accelerated culture, it requires that one thing nobody ever wants to endure.
At Slow Burn Marketing, ours is a thoughtful process.
We recently made a presentation to a company with a packaged good who couldn't endure a thoughtful process.
They said, "Yes, we understand that's the right way to do it. But we don't have the time for that."
That's right, a prospective client said out loud that he didn't have the time to do the job the right way.
Make the time, my friend.
That's how you find the Big Idea that serves you well for a lifetime.
YES, THERE ARE STILL BURNING QUESTIONS FROM LAST YEAR
Believe it or not.
There are faithful readers out there who sent their burning questions at the end of Q4. They're still waiting for your relentless scribe to answer them here at the end of Q1.
Since I've received no Constant Contact unsubscribe notices bearing their names, I assume they're still reading.
And today's question comes from a man whom I've known professionally for many years.
When we first began our professional association years ago, he was a Copywriter & Production Manager.
Today, he is a Business Manager.
THAT LATTER TITLE ALONE WOULD TERRIFY MOST COPYWRITERS
Which leads one to believe, this man is destined for bigger things than mere copywriting.
He may even be destined to be a boss of copywriters.
During my career, I was occasionally offered gigs that strayed away from grappling with the blank page to managing people and details and hardware. I've been a coordinator, manager and producer. And I was pretty good at it.
But NEVER would I ever want to be the boss of copywriters.
That's not a job that requires herding cats.
It requires herding rainbow unicorn cats with a bad attitude.
HE'S A BETTER MAN THAN I AM
And his burning question stems from his need to manage people.
His job description requires him to "boost morale in many ways."
Which seems to feed right into his query: "How 'bout tips on motivation" when it comes the sales staff writing radio commercials? (Fear not: we will make this apply to you, too.)
This is a very, very dangerous question to be asking me.
The first thing I'll say is that the sales staff shouldn't be writing the commercials.
THE SALES STAFF SHOULD BE OUT SELLING AIR TIME AND MANAGING CLIENTS
No account rep ever said, "Boy, I want to write me some advertising!"
They say things like, "I want to go out there, wrangle clients and make a pile of money!"
Indeed, some account reps don't fit this paradigm.
But by and large, sales people are extroverts motivated by going out and making money.
That's at odds with the introverted, intellectual task of writing scripts.
That's not to say they don't want to do it, or can't do it.
Some do and some will.
BUT THERE'S NO EARTHLY REASON A RADIO STATION DOESN'T HAVE A COPYWRITER ON STAFF
Except that they're cheap.
Many corporate bean counters can figure out some way to justify eliminating a fulltime copywriter.
I know because I've seen it happen. National award-winning, ROI-producing, failure-reversing, published copywriter working for half the going salary of his position gets canned because a bean counter up the chain doesn't understand how to measure the results that keeps advertiser on the air--and it's the advertisers who keep the lights on.
Radio is like any business (not yours, we hope) that has turned sad because of a poverty mentality and inability to understand the value of soft assets.
But I digress.
The sales staff are required to write their own scripts.
How does a business management guy keep them motivated? How does he inspire them to be creative, and write things that are better than the standard announcer-driven rip & read yawn fest for "all your fill in the blank needs"?
And how do I make it relevant to you, the non-copywriter?
I HAVE NO IDEA
Because trying to motivate anyone to do something he has no interest in doing is a really bad idea.
However, that answer doesn't help anyone. It will not earn me my pay on this fine Tuesday morning in early spring.
So all I can do is offer a couple of tips that work for me personally, and hope they can be adapted in a way that piques the interest of an aggressive, extraverted, money-motivated sharpie in a designer suit who really has no interest in sitting down and negotiating with himself over single words and comma placements.
So, the first place I always go when looking for motivation?
THE AWARD-WINNING COMMERCIALS
Frequently, I sit and listen to the commercials that won the big awards, especially the Radio Mercury Awards.
In fact, early in my career, the idea of winning a Mercury was an huge motivator for me.
This is the Oscars of radio advertising.
There are also huge cash prizes.
They are not easy to win.
In the main, Mercury-winning advertising is really well executed from concept to completion.
Sadly, while they're always creative, they're not always good advertising. Whoever is using them as motivation needs to understand the difference.
LOOKING AT OR LISTENING TO INSPIRING WORK IS A GREAT MOTIVATOR
It doesn't matter what business you're in.
If you see work that raises the bar for your industry, using it as a yardstick for yourself can improve your own work.
Whether you're writing radio, building a website or opening a retail store, look at the someone who has done it really well.
Look at the success stories.
Then say, "How can I make that better?"
That doesn't mean copying it and then changing the color from green to pink. That's lame.
INSTEAD, FIND A PRODUCT THAT MAKES YOUR HEART BEAT JUST A LITTLE FASTER
Find a version of what you do (or want to do) that makes you envious.
Then say, "OK, how do we improve on that?"
Or, "What can I take from this to apply in my own work?"
In writing, it can be as simple as hearing a ballsy conceit in a radio commercial, like insulting the advertiser for a big payoff, and thinking, "Wow, I want to be that edgy."
The man who submitted the query had suggested that maybe it was about getting a rep to write a two-voice spot instead of a one-voice spot.
COUNTING THE NUMBER OF VOICES MISSES THE POINT
What are you doing with the voices that are in the commercial to begin with?
Are they interesting?
Are they engaging?
Are they saying something that makes the listener say, "Tell me more!"
That can happen with a single voice.
And those criteria can be applied anywhere, no matter what you're creating.
Is what you're doing interesting, engaging and leading the horse to water?
Say you're opening a casual restaurant. You like the interior decoration motif of Chipotle.
Does that mean you should copy Chipotle?
OF COURSE NOT! THAT'S LAZY THINKING!
But it should lead you to ask, "What have they done, and what can I do that's similar but different?"
Maybe you think, "I know, my restaurant is going to look like the original Banana Republic! We're going with a military surplus motif, and all of our meals will be served in old tin mess kits! And the place will look like the inside of a M*A*S*H tent."
Yes, it sounds really stupid.
But maybe it would work.
The point is, you're looking at the creative topology of something that inspires you (Chipotle) and looking for a different conceit that is equally unique and makes the customer feel something.
A restaurant experience is theater. What play do you want your customer to feel like they're in?
OKAY, MAYBE WE'RE GETTING A LITTLE FAR AFIELD HERE
Now I'm going to have to start saying things like, "No, I didn't mean it's literally a theatrical experience. That's a metaphor."
Experience has taught me that anything that isn't direct, literal and simple really throws someone who is direct, literal and simple.
Like, a fellow copywriter once came to me for advice. I said that it's useful to look for inspiration in poetry you enjoy, and handed the writer a book of verse by Andrei Codrescu, a Romanian immigrant who's a former Mac Curdy Distinguished Professor of English at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge and an NPR commentator and very funny.
That copywriter never, ever asked me for any advice ever again.
Some people have a very difficult time coloring outside the lines they've defined for themselves.
And frequently, those lines are chokingly narrow.
THE OTHER WAY TO LOOK FOR MOTIVATION
REQUIRES A NUT
When I was working in Los Angeles radio, there was a production director who was a lunatic.
If I had a germ of an idea that needed fleshing out, I would go to him.
I'd say, "We have a new client with a swimming pool cleaning service. I'm thinking a story about a homeowner who has a chronic problem with alligators in the pool."
It wasn't even necessary to finish the thought before there were a dozen different ideas about the alligator problem and how the advertiser solves it, ranging from big steel nets on cranes to hand grenades and tactical nuclear weapons.
Did that mean I ended up writing a commercial about a pool service that provided a tactical nuclear weapon service to remove alligators from the pool?
BUT THE FEW MINUTES SPENT WITH THE NUT PUSHED THE STORY WAY OUTSIDE THE LINES
It gave me new ideas that completely changed the way I was approaching the creative problem.
And it often inspired a new and reasonable solution that made for a better advertisement.
And again, this method isn't limited to radio advertising.
Whenever you're looking for new inspiration for a creative challenge, it can help to talk to someone who isn't immersed in the challenge and can bring crazy outside ideas into the equation.
And it can be a surprising motivator for doing better work.
It sparks excitement and propels you to create.
Whether any of this will be of use to our business manager, I have no idea.
But across the board, no matter what business you're in, it helps to have outside inspirations, inside inspirations, and a willingness to stray outside the lines to create better work.
Just make sure that ultimately, you're creating the new work for the person at the other end of the communication. Because if all you're doing is entertaining yourself, you're doing a disservice to both yourself, your client (if there is one), and whoever is supposed to be receiving the message.
I'VE RECEIVED A GIFT THAT IS SOMEWHAT TROUBLING
I know the Fabulous Honey Parker is going to be displeased when she reads this.
It is, after all, a birthday gift she bestowed upon yours truly last week.
The gift is Amazon's Echo.
If you're not familiar with this interesting little device, it's not unlike having an iPhone with Siri specifically for using in the home environment.
But, instead of being an iPhone, Echo is a WiFi cylinder roughly the size of a tennis ball can packed with audio speakers, microphones and electronics.
And instead of Siri, Echo connects to Alexa, which is an Amazon voice service providing interconnection to other web services.
NOW, ON THE FACE OF IT, THE FIRST TROUBLING ASPECT OF ALL THIS IS THE AMAZON BRAND
You know what we say around here: the brand is the one way your core customer should feel about your business.
Amazon used to be the world's biggest bookstore. It felt like I could get any book there.
Now, it's kind of the world's biggest store, period. It feels like I can get almost anything there and have it shipped free via Amazon Prime.
But then came the Amazon-branded electronic devices.
First, it was the Kindle, making Amazon the world's biggest ebook store. If it's not on Kindle, it's probably not available as an ebook.
Then came Kindle Fire, which is a tablet.
Then came Fire TV, which is an HDMI device that competes with Google Chromecast for streaming video to my TV. (I have both devices. Chromecast mainly lies fallow. It feels kinda pointless.)
Then came the Fire Phone, which feels like an abject failure as a competitor in the smartphone market.
BURN YOUR FIRE PHONES, EVERYBODY!
So Amazon goes from being a bookstore to a general retailer to an electronics manufacturer...
And a cloud computing provider.
You never really think about that, do you? (Unless you happen to be someone like faithful screed reader Steve Cunningham, who is our token uber geek here at the screed.)
Amazon Web Services, or AWS, covers the entire world with what amounts to cloud-based virtual server farms for enterprise IT.
AWS is a mind boggling cloud service.
And Amazon Alexa is distinctly linked to Amazon Cloud when it comes to using Amazon Echo.
WHAT ON EARTH IS THE AMAZON BRAND, ANYWAY?
What am I supposed to feel about it?
The failure of the Fire Phone should help illustrate the fact that Amazon certainly doesn't feel like a cellular phone company. Their mediocre phone is still better than many, but constitutes a failure nonetheless.
Amazon feels like a general retailer with proprietary tech products.
But beyond all that brand confusion (I really don't know how to distill the Amazon brand into a single, concise sentence), there's a bigger challenge here for me.
What the hell do Echo and Alexa say about our culture?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE TEACH KIDS TO VOICE COMMAND EVERYTHING TO A COMPUTER?
There are already endless complaints about Millennials exhibiting excessive entitlement and narcissism.
What's going to happen when entitled, narcissistic nitwits wire the house with do-this-for-me electronics that absolve their children from any responsibility for performing the simplest tasks?
Will Generation Do It For Me have been unleashed upon the world?
Will a population of helpless fools signal the final, drain-circling spiral of the American character?
Will it all put the control of the world in the hands of Amazon, Google and Apple, with IBM sitting there, wondering how on earth Big Blue missed the boat on world domination?
WHAT REALLY IS THE IMPLICATION OF GIVING A COMPUTER CONTROL OVER THE SIMPLEST TASKS?
Are we ultimately turning control of our lives over a series of Great Satans hell bent on running all human behavior?
Will you use a Siri-controlled phone to summon your Google driverless car to pick you up at the front door after you tell Alexa to feed the cat and lock the door behind you?
Will it tie your shoes? And what if there's a power failure? Will we all just sit here in the dark, afraid?
Is this the beginning of the artificial intelligence paradigm that eventually leads to the War Of The Machines and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger coming back to us from the future fully nude, except for a flesh colored man girdle, to save us from termination of the species?
How happy is GoogleAmazonApple going to be when all their DriverlessAlexaSiri machines belch digital napalm back in their faces and assume command of all the global package-delivery drones, using them to drop Amazon Fire Bombs on all the C-suite executives who thought they had all this madness under control?
"WHAT HAVE I DONE?"
One of the best last lines from any movie ever.
Spoiler alert: if you haven't seen Bridge On The River Kwai, I'm about to ruin it all for you.
A Pre-Obi Wan Alec Guinness is commanding Allied prisoners of war in Burma who are forced to build a railroad bridge for their Japanese captors.
At the end of the movie, when Guinness discovers evidence that the Allies are about to blow up the bridge, he comes to a sudden realization about his part in this madness, and gets blown away by mortar fire as he says, "What have I done?!" and falls dead on the detonator, blowing up what he's done and sending an important enemy train into the river.
What are we doing?
AND WILL WE BE ASKING, "ALEXA, WHAT WE DONE?"
Will this end up being some kind of publicly-traded digital dystopia that makes The Minority Report and The Hunger Games seem like last decade's TV sitcoms by comparison?
Will I be sitting in my house, transformed into a helpless and drooling, Alexa-fueled bonehead who can't even tie my own shoes because there's a power failure?
I don't know.
But I do know this: Amazon Echo is pretty cool.
Even if Alexa has no idea what I'm talking about when I say, "Alexa, find me a paella recipe."
The good news is, I can change the name I used to address her.
Maybe I'll change her name to Puppet Master.
A PLACE WHERE BRANDING & MARKETING OVERLAP WITH HOLLYWOOD
Yes, I'm a little behind the curve.
No matter. It was worth the wait. You may agree. Or not.
Over the weekend, The Fabulous Honey Parker and I saw The Big Short.
If you don't know this film, it's based on the book of the same name, documenting the men who shorted the sub-prime mortgage bubble.
The film has won a slew of awards, from Oscar to AFI to BAFTA to Critic's Choice to plenty you've probably never heard of.
Here's what we find really interesting about The Big Short.
IT'S DESIGNED TO MAKE YOU FEEL ONE THING ABOUT "THE SYSTEM"
And it does that quite well.
The film makes you laugh. It makes you aghast. But mostly, it's a calculated to make you feel furious.
It really leaves you with little alternative. Unless you're a sociopath.
To drill down a bit, director Adam McKay wants you to not only feel furious about what happened in the mortgage meltdown, but to feel like you need to pay more attention to things that matter--as opposed to paying attention to our celebrity-heavy, 24-hour news cycle that typically says little of substance.
McKay says of his film, "The most important thing to me is our popular, white-noise culture is telling you this [topic] is boring, other people are dealing with it, and by the end, I want you to feel contradicted, 'This is not boring.'"
MR. MCKAY WANTS YOU TO TAKE ACTION
Which is exactly what we as marketers and entrepreneurs want from marketing, right?
The big picture of The Big Short aside, there is also some micro take-away that left me ruminating about what we all do.
Some things said in the movie were mentioned with an eye towards the housing-bubble insanity--
But were equally applicable to branding and marketing.
Here now, in no particular order, some of those personal reflections to maybe make you feel better (or worse) about the little jobs we do in pursuit of lucre.
ABOUT THAT FRAUD...
Steve Carrell's character, the dysfunctional hedge-fund manager Mark Baum, says:
We live in an era of fraud in America. Not just in
banking, but in government, education, religion,
food, even baseball... What bothers me isn't that
fraud is not nice. Or that fraud is mean. For fifteen
thousand years, fraud and shortsighted thinking
have never, ever worked. Not once. Eventually
you get caught, things go south. When the hell
did we forget all that? I thought we were better
than this, I really did.
Hey, ain't that a cheery thought for a Tuesday morning!
Especially if you work in marketing or advertising, you've heard someone say that the advertising business is the institutionalized perpetration of fraud.
Which is, frankly, BS.
DONE WITH INTEGRITY, ADVERTISING CAN EVEN BE AN HONORABLE AND RIGHTEOUS PURSUIT
No, it isn't up there with solving third-world hunger.
But not everyone can be Mother Theresa.
And advertising can be used in the support of people like Mother Theresa. Both The Fabulous Honey Parker and I have done as much.
And in the bigger picture, the kind of advertising that constitutes lying to people to get at their wallets is ultimately useless.
Especially if the product being sold is lousy, any skilled advertising created on its behalf only accelerates the product's failure.
This week, Slow Burn is talking with a gentleman about marketing a kind of software development that can speed an enterprise's project by two thirds and cut their costs one third.
In an age of shrinking budgets and Americans losing their jobs to offshoring, marketing this service could help a business be more competitive and profitable and help domestic IT people keep their jobs.
Does creating advertising for that seem like an honorable pursuit?
"NO, ADVERTISING IS INSTITUTIONALIZED LYING!"
Yep. And the guy who's saying that is probably the same guy who tells a three-year-old there is no Santa Claus.
Fraud might pay off in the short term.
In the long term, it's a bad tactic and a crappy strategy.
Another line from the movie was actually not written by a screenwriter ostensibly quoting a fictionalized hedge fund manager, but was taken from that American literary icon, Mark Twain:
"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."
Yes, advertising is filled with examples of this.
SELF-PROCLAIMED EXPERTS OFTEN SPOUT BS ABOUT ADVERTISING "RULES"
Rules like, "In a radio commercial, you have to say the advertiser's name in the first 10 seconds and a minimum of three times."
Some of my high-ROI producing commercials happily fly in the face of such BS.
The only rule is this: as long as you make the prospect care and give him a simple and direct way to respond, there are no rules.
Any authority who spouts inane "rules" about creating advertising should be ignored.
(Yes, feel free to stop reading right now.)
AND THEN, ONE OF THE MORE PROFANE QUOTES OF THE FILM...
This will be one of the few times you must endure the F-word here in the screed.
I apologize in advance.
"Overheard at a Washington, D.C. bar: 'Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.'"
That's so much a crystallization of the truth, I dare say that line itself is poetry.
Except that it's also not entirely true.
People hate poetry when you tell them it's poetry and that it's good for them like bran-flake castor-oil kale juice, and they have to work to understand it.
Poetry at its finest is a crystallization of the truth, but it doesn't need to be a form of cultural castor oil.
MEGHAN TRAINOR'S "ALL ABOUT THAT BASS" IS MILLION-DOLLAR POP POETRY
If you had ever said, "You know what we need is a pop song about positive female body image," you'd be laughed out of the room.
But that's exactly what Ms. Trainor wrote. She scored a huge, arguably poetic hit that resonates with people nationwide. And she routinely receives email from girls who thank her for making them feel better about themselves.
Yes, arguably, this is part of the cultural white noise that Adam McKay wants us to get past in order to pay attention to the real problems.
But that's another discussion.
This is about the power of poetry to resonate and get past the brain's gatekeeper to tap into the emotions.
Another example: I recently watched a New Zealand sheep farmer recite an original poem about going vegan.
As a confirmed omnivore with a distinct appreciation for meat--and as someone who has endured many unpersuasive arguments about veganism--that poem was the first time that I was ever left feeling as if maybe there really is something to be said for pursuing a meatless existence.
Done well, poetry pierces the intellect to reach more deeply and resonate more profoundly.
AND SO DOES GOOD ADVERTISING--WHICH CAN BE POETRY
But that is also another screed.
And finally, one of the best lines from the film comes early on, when neurologist, fund manager and self-diagnosed Asperger sufferer Michael Burry is trying to be more consciously socially acceptable, he tries to start a conversation with a job hunter by saying, "That's a nice haircut. Did you do it yourself?"
Who but a person with a tenuous grasp on the details of daily reality would ever even ask such a question?
I'll tell you who: an entrepreneur.
No, this is not an indictment of entrepreneurs at large.
But it does echo the absurdist definition of "entrepreneur" that's been floated in this space previously: "Someone who would perform brain surgery on himself if he could figure out how to stay awake during the operation."
SOME TASKS ARE BETTER OUTSOURCED
And some entrepreneurs can't possibly understand that.
Which is why, so often, they assume all their marketing duties themselves without actually understanding anything about it.
We've spoken to a fellow who funds tech startups. He has described something very much like this: tech entrepreneurs frequently know just enough to feel good about going out and spending huge amounts of money on pay-per-click advertising that makes zero sense and offers zero return.
Would you spend $30,0000 a month to advertise your business without understanding branding theory, advertising strategy or direct response tactics?
Yet it happens routinely.
These people understand neither the science nor the art of their own marketing, yet blow scads of money prompted by the hubris of "How hard can it be?" thinking.
IN THE END, THERE REALLY IS A SIMILARITY BETWEEN ART AND ADVERTISING
Let's revisit Wikipedia for our definition of art:
Art is a diverse range of human activities
in creating visual, auditory or performing
artifacts--artworks, expressing the author's
imaginative or technical skill, intended to be
appreciated for their beauty or emotional
So, art is emotionally evocative. It makes people feel something.
Great art makes people feel something and hangs in The Louvre.
Popular art makes people feel something, goes to the top of the charts, and eventually disappears.
Advertising art makes people feel something, and inspires them to better their own lives by helping a business owner better his own life.
No fraud. No stupid rules by experts. No self-inflicted hairstyles.
Just an intelligent and strategic appeal to the prospect's emotional being in a way that is measured and balanced to the sale at hand.
Until the fraud hits the fan. Which is ultimately how The Big Short came to be in the first place.
You already use your powers for good. Now go see the movie if you haven't already.
YOU THOUGHT I'D FORGOTTEN ABOUT YOUR CARDS AND LETTERS, HADN'T YOU?
Not so, dear reader.
There are still several of Q4 2015's burning questions to be answered.
It's just that other, more urgent topics had gotten in the way.
Like, the idea of flying to the British Virgin Islands for elective plastic surgery, and slaying the vile beast that is Puppy Monkey Baby.
But here now, we are returning to answer yet another burning question from the trenches.
THIS ONE COMES FROM ONE OF THE RELENTLESS WEEKLY SCREED'S MOST RELENTLESS READERS
This is a man who is entirely too smart to even be here. Why he hangs around is a mystery.
Besides being an enormously talented engineer, voiceover performer and web designer, he is also notable for having toured the world as a sideman with some of the classic stadium rock bands.
He has recently retired from a job where he was warping the minds of America's youth at a hugely expensive university in Southern California.
You can understand how one might be humbled to find that this professor/engineer/musician not only reads but actually pays attention to this wretched drivel.
So, for The Professor, we now address his Burning Question--which (unsurprisingly) was stated in the form of an essay.
"I'D LOVE TO SEE A SCREED OR TWO ON SOCIAL MEDIA USE BY SMALL BUSINESS ADVERTISERS...
"...particularly solopreneurs, and especially on Facebook (and to a lesser extent, Twitter).
"We've all seen VO talent (and some companies!) who think they're helping themselves by posting their current projects, successes, and more on social media, where they primarily reach...
"...wait for it...
"Obviously there's no positive ROI to be had there.
"So shall the solopreneur just blow off social media altogether and focus on some other channel? Is it as simple as eschewing FB? Or Twitter?
"Or is it all about the content, and the targeting, and it matters less where it goes than what it is that's going there?
"(I suspect I've answered my own question, dammit!)"
THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT!
Yes, a greater smartass than myself would sign off here.
The reason that's not happening is I feel The Professor's pain.
This is a challenge that has dogged me for years.
What professional traction is there to be gained from using social media to be social with your competitors?
And what is the solution?
So really, we have two burning questions. More, if you really drill down. So maybe the overarching question is...
WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING IN SOCIAL MEDIA AND DOES IT MAKE ANY SENSE?
First, let's talk about the idea of reaching competitors versus prospects.
What is it that you're trying to accomplish with your social media presence?
Both the Professor and I know a voiceover performer whose social media reaches primarily his competitors.
And while he talks about his "current projects, successes, and more," these posts do something really useful.
They help establish him as an authority within his peer group.
This man is monumental.
Not to mention humble to boot.
REACHING HIS COMPETITORS HAS BEEN USEFUL IN BUILDING A FAN BASE AMONG HIS COLLEAGUES
A different example, and perhaps even simpler to grasp: there are ad agency copywriters who are primarily about reaching their colleagues on Facebook and Twitter.
There's one of several copywriters I follow on Twitter. He posts things such as:
"Albacore is tuna that Jessica Alba has rubbed on her tummy."
"I'm having a really hard time convincing myself to eat a box of soup instead of running for fast food."
"Minestrone is an Italian word that means 'explodes in microwave.'"
He obviously has a penchant for humor, creative thinking and vivid imagery.
How is this useful?
Because in the advertising agency world, agency copywriters often end up getting hired by other agency copywriters.
COMPETITORS, YES--BUT ALSO COLLEAGUES
Proving one's worth to one's professional colleagues can be extremely valuable over the long haul.
It can also be especially useful if, as part of your livelihood, you sell information products and consultations to those colleagues.
But going back to the original question, how does posting "current projects and successes" benefit the social media user?
It depends. If it serves as social proof of one's authority, it can help build the brand.
But what if you run, say, a yoga studio?
Does it make any sense to reach other yoga studios?
Perhaps. It depends what your studio is about and what you post.
Should you be reaching ONLY other yoga studios?
No, that would be silly.
But reaching other yoga studios makes sense, because a) you should know what your competition is doing, b) you should be able to establish authority, and c) other yoga studios attract other yoga students-who might eventually be attracted to you.
And who doesn't want to maybe attract the competition's customers?
THE BIGGER QUESTION IS: WHAT'S YOUR BRAND STORY AND ARE YOU STICKING TO IT?
If you have properly defined who you are as a solopreneur or a business, you should have no problem standing out in social media.
If you understand the one way your friends and followers should feel about your business, sticking to that line and continually offering material to support that feeling should be a piece of red velvet cake.
Should your competitors know about your successes? Sure! Whether you're a yoga studio, a copywriter, a high-end audio store or an electrical engineering firm, it's all about PR.
It's about continually defining who you are.
It's about letting the marketplace know how and why you matter.
DOES THIS ENGENDER PROFESSIONAL JEALOUSY?
But jealousy is a small-minded emotion and not worthy of consideration. To borrow from the famous Robert Heinlein, "A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity."
Posting current projects and successes (assuming you don't brag, of course) helps raise your profile, both with your friendly competitors and with your customers.
For example, I recently posted about a VO session I did with Leo Burnett.
That's certainly unusual and vaguely interesting.
SOCIAL MEDIA COULD REALLY BE CONSIDERED A FORM OF ONGOING MICRO PRESS-RELEASES
Or an ongoing tradeshow.
Or an ongoing business networking function.
Yes, there should be an ongoing effort to reach one's customers.
But there is no problem with also reaching competitors.
There are certainly times when I've recommended my competitors to do work for which I'm not right.
(This is especially so when someone's looking for female voice talent, and my one female voice impersonation is inappropriate.)
COMPETITORS CAN BE A GREAT SOURCE OF BUSINESS
Referrals and recommendations form a collegial social media base can be immensely valuable.
LinkedIn is especially a place where this kind of interaction happens.
Yes, you might be competitors today, possibly even vying for the same job.
But tomorrow, one of you could be looking for a person who does exactly what the other one does.
And the better you've defined your brand, the more likely you are to be top of mind in such a situation.
The alternative to reaching competitors with social media is to be invisible to them--which is of little to no benefit.
In the long run, it's "all about the content, and the targeting, and it matters less where it goes than what it is that's going there."
To borrow from The Professor and super genius who started this ball rolling, maybe he did answer his own question.
AND MAYBE ALL I DID WAS ELABORATE ON IT FOR ABOUT 1,000 WORDS
At least I'm smart enough to recognize when someone smarter than me hands me a gift and lets me run with it.
Because really, that's what I do for a living.
Sometimes, that gift is buried beneath tons of other material.
But branding small businesses is about uncovering the small business's gift to the customer, then figuring out how to help the business put that gift on display.
And whether it's seen by a customer or a competitor makes no difference.
Ultimately, it has the same effect: it makes one person feel one way about your business.
And therein lies the power.
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.